Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: It Was 40 Years Ago Today

"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" premiered on PBS forty years ago today.

Family Communications is marking the anniversary with a series of announcements which, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is to include:

Groundbreaking for the "Tribute to Children" statue of Rogers on the North Shore is scheduled for on or near March 20, which would have been his 80th birthday. The riverside statue will be located close to Heinz Field and facing the Point.

In the meantime, Family Communications will launch "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Days in mid-March, a series of events involving the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, the National Aviary, the Carnegie Science Center, the Senator John Heinz History Museum, The Andy Warhol Museum, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the Pittsburgh Symphony, Carnegie and regional libraries and other organizations in the region.

The New York Times celebrated the anniversary differently, running a piece on Sunday pondering, "Is PBS Still Necessary?".

Its creative heyday has passed, the author reasons. Audiences are deluged with similar options. Moreover, ratings are down.

The first two points are arguable about the entire television landscape, but the last point is crucial.

If the marketplace alone decides what constitutes programming, then -- eventually -- our only option will be to watch "Real World XXV" instead of "Materpiece." If the marketplace alone decides what constitutes news then our only option will be to watch "Access Hollywood" instead of "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." If the marketplace alone decides what constitutes documentary, our only option will be to watch "Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?" instead of "Frontline."

Now more than ever, a marketplace of ideas free from the marketplace is essential.

Now more than ever, when every corporate confab has a lobby, every politician is for sale, and every conceivable surface is covered with advertising, we need a place that's safe from influence -- or at least more safe.

Now more than ever, when the average 3-year-old recognizes 100 different brand logos, and the average 18-year-old has witnessed 200,000 acts of televised violence, we need a place that's safe from influence -- or at least more safe.

That's what Mister Rogers stood for. In a 1967 Senate Oversight hearing, he put it thusly:

"I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable we will have done a great service for mental health. I think that its much more dramatic that two men could be working out their feelings of anger than showing something of gunfire. I'm constantly concerned about what our children are seeing. And for fifteen years... I have tried to present what I feel is a meaningful expression of care."

1 comment:

Linda said...

As a 12 year old babysitter, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was a godsend for me. The kids and I would watch together, I think I got as much out of it as they did! Happy Anniversary, thanks for the love ......